CHARACTERS: Ulquiorra and Orihime
GENRE: romance, fantasy
SUMMARY: AU. Orihime receives a visitor in the middle of the night, and entertains the strangest proposition. (1100+ words)
NOTES: Written for ulqui_hime’s Valentine's Fest 2010. Originally posted here.
Orihime knows the story of Cupid and Psyche, of a relationship which begins and thusly must begin with trust; she knows faintly of this attraction which unfolds in the dark, of hushed promises and of an insatiable curiosity. All this, she has read about in class, in vaguely similar recounts, in fairytales with clichéd happily-ever-afters. And not once has she pondered the possibility of this story being her own.
No one would blame her. Fairytales don’t normally begin with the shattering of broken glass, a window falling against its own hinges, a sea of deadly crystals reflecting the moonlight, an eerie glow against her hardwood floor, decidedly dangerous and at the same time beckoning. She resolves to take a step back.
"Are you afraid of me?" She pauses midstride, brows furrowing as she finally raises her head. He stands against the light, shadows playing across pale cheeks, a split second hinting at the color of his eyes, a whirlpool of disarming green, solid and commanding. Orihime remembers to shake her head, no. She isn’t afraid, but she thinks she ought to be.
He wears nothing but white, ripped hakama and torn haori, she wonders if it is all just his skin, if the folds are simply her imagination, if he is not a man (because he doesn’t entirely look like one) but a creature. And if he weren’t so… quiet, without that frown, the scruffy hair, catlike eyes, sharp and glimmering, she might’ve thought he was an angel. Only, angels don’t have bone-thin wings, as if they would crackle and burn beneath the slightest touch. He isn’t an angel, of that she is certain.
"Am I going to die?" She asks softly, as there is no other explanation. He has come to take her away, from her family and friends, from all that she knows, from her happiness, from her feeling. And vaguely, Orihime wonders if that is what death is really like – an abundance of nothingness. How sad a life that would be, she frowns, pointedly studying him. She decides to ask if that is what his life is like, if he has gone on without happiness and feeling, without a smile, without a care if it rains, if he has never shed a tear. He doesn’t bother with a reply. Instead, he addresses her first question.
"I am going to take your heart away."
Orihime is reminded of the story of Cupid and Psyche, of a tale which boasts of the idea of trust, unending, unquestioning trust. And she wonders how on earth Psyche was able to do it. She has bitten down on her bottom lip so hard that it has begun to bleed, the sting jerking her awake. It is then that she recalls Psyche, it is then that she remembers vividly. Psyche could not do it; she did not trust Cupid completely. In fact, she had accidentally burned the demigod with candle wax while he slept in an effort to see his true form, which prompted him to run away from her. Orihime cannot remember if they ever saw each other again. Behind most fairytales and glorified recounts is a tragedy after all.
"Most people ask for chocolate. Do I really have to give you my heart?"
She can’t tell if he is amused or not, he nods his head once. Given all that he has told her, which really isn’t much, he must be there to take her away. And yet Orihime cannot help her smile. She asks him if she will see her brother on the other side. The tilt of his head and the slight crease of his brow indicate that he has heard her, and that he doesn’t quite understand.
"Other side?" His voice remains even regardless.
"You know – heaven?" She points to the ceiling. He looks up, following her gesture. And if she weren’t beginning to fear for her eternity, she would have laughed.
Orihime frowns, "Am I not going to heaven?"
He shrugs then, probably because he still does not understand.
"I only need your heart."
"I can’t give it to you unless I know where I’m going," Orihime argues, sitting back against her mattress, her legs dangling over the edge of the bed. She waits a moment, and then a few more. Finally, he shakes his head, stalks forward, the broken glass doesn’t stop him. There is no blood, no pain, not even an indication of it on his face.
"Your heart," he continues, reaching out, breath wispy like a faint candlelight about to go out. Orihime shivers.
"What if I gave you something else?" She folds her legs beneath her, braces herself with a pillow covering her chest, as if that will keep him from tearing her apart.
"There is nothing else. I need your heart," he replies, his tone almost impatient, Orihime can’t be sure.
The seconds fall away as he sits next to her, still holding out his hand, palm face-up. Perhaps he means to garner her consent. But what if she doesn’t relinquish it? Orihime entertains the thought of running out the door, just to see if he will follow, with his palm face-up and expression blank. She shakes her head, no.
"I can’t give it to you, I’m sorry," she bows her head down, hoping he will let her go. There are other hearts out there, other hearts broken, other hearts whole. Hers is neither one of the two. Why does it have to be this one? She repeats her apology, bows her head lower, waits. And he continues to stare back at her, his arm steady, his back straight, his wings gone, drawn in. If she doesn’t look too closely, he almost seems human. And that thought comforts her, but for only a second.
"If I give it to you," Orihime sighs, "will you tell me what you’re going to do with it?" It is a combination of resignation and anger which prompts her inquiry. She knows he won’t leave unless he has what he came for. She knows there is no point in withholding. Still, she must know, she must know more. "I’ll give it to you, then. All you have to do is tell me."
Slowly, she extends her own arm, palm meeting his, cupping down. Will he peel through the layers – pillow, shirt, flesh, bone – until he gets to her heart? Will he swallow her whole until there is nothing but her heart left? She shuts her eyes, praying it won’t hurt. Make it quick and painless.
It surprises her some minutes later when nothing has happened. They continue to sit quietly, the warmth of his seemingly lifeless body pouring into her own. She blinks, curling her fingers, sliding them through his. He stares down at their hands before looking up to meet her eyes. And for some reason, Orihime thinks she can see a semblance of a smile.
"This heart is mine, it belongs to me now," he says, his lips barely move, his grip tightens. Orihime shakes her head, no.
"Now, do you have a heart for me?"